As you all know, the famed summer snowboard destination Camp of Champions announced its closure last week, via a letter written and posted on social media by the camp’s founder, Ken Achenbach. Since then, comments have poured in by the hundreds, with many pledging their support for COC as well as grieving about the loss of one of snowboarding’s most iconic platforms.
Over the years, Camp of Champs has played host to some of the most prestigious pros in snowboard history long before they were professionals. Be it coaches, counselors, diggers or just weekday warrior visitors, COC groomed many a snowboarder that went on to change the landscape of professional snowboarding, so we decided to reach out and let them tell you their story, be it their experience with Camp of Champs or simply what they thought of its closure. It’s both a sad state of affairs for the snowboard industry and a harsh reminder of the global fight we are about to endure with climate change, and we at SNOWBOARDER Magazine would like to extend our condolences to Ken Achenbach and thank him for the lasting effect that Camp of Champions will forever have on our culture.
“Camp of Champs was a very special place. I never got to go as a camper but when I started to compete I was able to get in. I learned so many tricks and met so many people there. It will be missed!”
“The first time I rode COC I snuck in. I had no sponsors and I wanted to be in the recap video so bad. I was too scared to ride around so I went straight to hiking and trying to film tricks. It was always a really exciting thing for Canadians to be a part of. Being there at that time helped me and so many others.” —Jake Kuzyk
“Camp of Champs was sort of like a fairytale land for kids. The view, the park, and the people were top notch. It will be missed.”
“I used to watch some of my snowboarding heroes rip the pipe at Camp of Champions in videos and in print long before I ever set foot on the Blackcomb glacier. Back then it was just a short halfpipe tucked behind the rocks, almost seemingly to keep the snowboard hooligans out of view from the rest of the summer ski training camps. It grew lane by lane every summer and quickly became the premier spot to ride if you were anywhere in the Whistler/Vancouver area for the summer. I worked as a full-time coach for 5 summers up there riding the pipe and thinking about those old VHS tapes that I bootlegged from somewhere. Guys like Marc Morisset, Sean Johnson, Noah Salasnek and Jeff Brushie. By the time I made it to camp they weren’t riding up there anymore, but I still rode hard in all types of conditions. I was fueled by the stoke of emulating what I saw in just a few short minutes of fuzzy video and a rare photo or two of those riders spinning and poking in a slushy pipe. I was living my dream, snowboarding in the summer and getting paid to do it. Hard to beat when you are a kid trying to come up in the shred game and Camp of Champions was the perfect place for me to do it.”
“Camp of Champions was truly a special place. Its location made it feel like you were overseas or at least very far from home. The vibe in Whistler is magnetic, everyone being so appreciative of snowboarding and sharing the same love for something. I met some of the best people there, coaches and campers alike. Camp of Champions really cared for everyone that was there and they strived to make sure everyone had a great time. They will be missed, and it will be a very important piece of snowboard history.”
“I grew up watching Crapneto religiously, dreaming of going to Whistler in the summertime. After my first summer at COC in ’08 it ended up being the one thing I looked forward to the most out of the whole year, for like five years straight. Legendary place, best camp ever. Thank you for everything, Ken.”
“It’s a sad one for snowboarding in general and especially Canadian snowboarding. Such a long history of good snowboarding and good times on that glacier.”
“The end of an era. On first hearing about it, it didn’t seem to phase me too much. Now, a week after the news, every time I hear it mentioned I get bummed out. I loved coaching some of the keenest group of people in snowboarding, and I loved boarding up there with all my friends. The groups that come to COC are the people that eat, sleep, and breathe snowboarding. They love it enough to ditch weeks of summer activity time and put on sweaty snowboard gear, all to go shred with their friends. COC contributed a lot to the snowboard industry outside of the campers. It gave a bunch of local snowboarders amazing jobs for a few weeks and it helped keep us relevant to the young kids, haha. But seriously, some of us have built life-long fans because of the friends made at camp. Camp showed a lot of kids how fun snowboarding is and created a lifestyle that will be carried into adulthood for so many. There are campers that went pro and campers that simply return every year for the vibe that a few weeks in Whistler on the glacier gave them. There are plenty of kids I coached that still send me emails to this day, telling me about how their season was and how hyped they are when they learned a new trick I helped them with. That’s a really good feeling, knowing that I directly impacted someone’s life in a positive way. Some of them are not kids anymore and are now shredders I watch in edits and respect. That’s some circle of life shit right there. Everyone from Ken, to all the coaches and staff, park builders, and anyone who ever came and rode at COC had a part in keeping lovely summer madness so rad. I’m going to miss COC.”
“Camp of Champions was huge for me. Twice as a camper then climbed the ranks from lunch boy to coach. I wouldn’t be where I am or who I am if it wasn’t for the past 15 summers spent at Camp of Champions.”
“Growing up in the prairies of Manitoba I didn’t really plan on spending my life snowboarding but after going to COC once I thought to myself, ‘Why not spend my life snowboarding?’ Not only did COC change my life but it changed the lives of so many others over the past 28 years of summer shredding. It’s a real shame it’s not going to do that anymore.”